Whether living on or just visiting the island, we all know how wonderful the summers can be here, with blue skies, turquoise seas, and, with luck, some warm sunshine.
Harris in Winter: A Cold But Stunning Beauty
However, the winters can be just as stunning; the days still have sunshine – although a little cooler and the sea still has hints of turquoise in the deep blue. But it is at night, with twilight starting in the late afternoon around 3 pm and the Sun not peaking until the following late morning, that the dark skies can put on a show here.
The Allure of the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis
The Aurora Borealis, or as some know them, the Northern Lights, can be elusive, but in recent weeks, we have had some of the most spectacular light shows for some time. There is very little light pollution on Harris, which means the conditions are ideal for seeing this phenomenon.
What Causes These Lights?
Auroras are the result of solar flares on our Sun – a burst of energy in the form of charged particles carried on the solar wind toward Earth. The particles interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and gases in our atmosphere, resulting in beautiful displays of light in the sky. Oxygen produces a green and red light, while Nitrogen glows blue and purple.
Capturing the Aurora
There are frequent aurora throughout autumn/winter periods, but these are not always visible to the naked eye. Weaker displays can often be picked up on camera with a long exposure. However, when the lights are at their strongest and visible to the naked eye, you can get fantastic pictures just by using a camera on a phone.
Anticipating the Aurora
If you‘re wondering if an aurora may be likely during your stay, an excellent site to keep a close eye on is ‘Glendale Aurora’ – https://aurora-alerts.uk/. Based on the Isle of Skye, the forecasts are very accurate, and an app is also available to download from the website. It’s always up to date with the current status and upcoming activity.
Celebrating Dark Skies
An Lanntair, the hub for creativity and arts in Stornoway, also hold a ‘Hebridean Dark Skies Festival’ in March each year and is currently making plans for 2024 – read more about this here, https://lanntair.com/creative-programme/darkskies/.
Plan Your Winter Visit
So, if you want to witness this spectacular scene, grab your woolly hat and warm coat and start planning your winter visit with us.